I love Anita Diamant, and I loved The Red Tent. I was so excited to finally get my hands on The Boston Girl, her latest book, which was just released in December. It begins in 1985, with a series of letters that a grandmother writes to her granddaughter. I loved the story – both this idea of sharing memories, and the young woman the grandmother had once been.
What an incredible gift, to be given this so beautifully detailed story of her grandmother. If only I were so lucky! When my Dad passed away a few years ago I was given all of his pictures, letters, mementos, and this is something that I’ve wanted to do for him. To recreate his memories, and his story with these things of his. One day… Addie Baum has written her own life story, and has given her granddaughter a legend to look up to.
Nobody told you? You’re sure?
Well, maybe it’s not such a surprise. People don’t talk so much about sad memories. And it was a long time ago.
But you should know this. So go ahead. Turn on the tape recorder.”
Diamant has a knack for creating strong female characters. I absolutely loved The Red Tent. In that book Dinah is incredibly strong, standing up to her father and her brothers, and their traditions. Boston Girl is just as strong. She was one of three girls, they were the daughters of Russian immigrants. She was the youngest, and the only one born in the U.S. Born just after the turn of the century, her parents are incredibly old-fashioned. She yearns to be educated, to be independent, and this is not something her mother supports. Even when this more advenorous path leads to meeting her husband, a prominent Jewish lawyer, her mother still skeptical. Addie is too modern, too unconventional for her parents. She’s a true woman of the 20s, not quite a flapper, but ready to leave the past and its traditions behind her.
She and her family life through WWI, and the Spanish Flu a few years later. The Spanish Flu was devastating, and the family loses two little boys. Her two older sisters married the same man. Her oldest sister first, and after she passes her other sister marries him. They all lived through such tragedy, and their survival of their escape from Russia was incredible.
I admire her bravery, standing up to her mother to become her own woman was tough enough. Her mother didn’t believe she needed a career, an education, anything beyond a good husband. She faces discrimination as a Jewish woman, in her neighborhood, and throughout the city. Her parents do too, as Jewish immigrants, they struggle to learn English – and her mother refuses to speak anything but Yiddish in the home. She also faces sexual harassment in the workplace. This was really common until fairly recently, and as many strides as women have made, it’s easy for us to forget that. She’s someone that her granddaughter can look up to – someone all modern women can look up to!